1 September 2022

Patient Communication Cadence: What It Is and How to Define It

Patient Communication Cadence: What It Is and How to Define It

Reminder messages are pivotal in keeping dental patients returning for oral healthcare services. Because it's easy for messaging to be forgotten, finding the right cadence for these communications is essential.

Creating the perfect balance between engagement and spamming ensures messages sent by your office are taken seriously. You want your patients to achieve the best dental care outcomes. But if they unsubscribe from receiving important reminders because of excessive messaging notifications, treatment compliance becomes challenging.

If you haven't established a patient communication cadence yet or aren't even sure what that is, this helpful guide explains the basics. We've also included tips for optimizing your patient messaging strategy.

How to Determine the Right Cadence for Reminder Message

How to Determine the Right Cadence for Reminder Message

As a dental professional, you already know that appointment confirmations and reminder messages are your best defense against costly no-shows and last-minute cancellations. Depending on your specialization, any messages sent will need to be flexible to meet the needs of your office and patients.

If you aren't achieving a high appointment completion rate despite using automated reminders, it could be due to your patient communication cadence being off.

A standard cadence for appointment confirmations and reminders typically follows this frequency:

  1. A confirmation message gets sent automatically when the appointment is booked.
  2. A reminder is sent a week in advance (or two, depending on your wait time)
  3. If a confirmation hasn't been received, a second reminder goes out two days ahead of the appointment.
  4. A final reminder gets sent on the day of the scheduled visit.

This timeline helps keep patients engaged by creating a sense of urgency about receiving their scheduled dental care. It also allows enough time for cancellation and rescheduling a visit so another patient can fill the vacant time slot.

3 Patient Communication Best Practices to Avoid Message Burnout

3 Patient Communication Best Practices to Avoid Message Burnout

Just like brushing your teeth, there are a lot of right and wrong ways to go about reminding patients about their appointments. Below are three essential best practices to ensure you formulate a cadence that benefits your patients and avoids them tuning you out:

Only Send Information Your Patient Agrees to Receive

This first piece of advice can go a long way in creating a cadence that your patients appreciate because they control what you can send them. Instead of using a general agreement to receive messages from your dental office that covers everything from appointment reminders to monthly newsletters, special discounts, and social media notifications, break down this permission into a few specific categories:

  • Appointment-related communications including confirmations, scheduling requests, reminders, feedback surveys, EHR, and billing notices
  • Advertising messages that include new products, service updates, and discounts
  • Company news, including monthly newsletters, leadership and staff changes, and policy updates

Allowing patients to create a personalized cadence can also help your team better understand what information is essential to your target audience.

Make Sure Patient and Practice Contact Information is Up-to-Date

Automated appointment reminders are probably a major time-saver in your office since many practice management software platforms offer customizable message templates. However, it's important to regularly verify your office's contact information is accurate. It's easy to forget to update a phone number, online scheduler link, or office address.

You should also ensure that your patients keep their contact information up-to-date with your dental practice. Phone numbers change all the time, as do emails. Have your team ask patients at check in if any of these details need updating in their file. You can even include a little note in your reminders now and then, too. This ensures your patients receive these reminders and confirmation messages, so it's less likely they'll miss their scheduled visits.

Use Multiple Channels to Communicate

Use Multiple Channels to Communicate

Another way to ensure your appointment reminder cadence is effective is to communicate with your patients on their terms. When onboarding, always offer multiple options for them to receive messages from your dental practice. For most practices, there are four primary avenues to contact patients:

  • Postcards
  • Email
  • Text/SMS
  • Direct phone calls and voicemail

And, don't limit them to only one channel. With an advanced VoIP phone system like Adit Voice, you can send a message to multiple channels at once. This means your staff doesn't have to spend time sending the same information three or four times separately.

Keep in mind that your reminder frequency will depend on the channel(s) patients choose for communication. For example, if they only want to be contacted through email, you probably shouldn't message them more than three times per scheduled appointment. If they pick multiple channels, limit reminders to four, but alternate between the different methods your patient chose.

Ideally, your reminder software should automatically send a text a few minutes after they schedule. Next a postcard ten days prior (if enough time to do so), and then an email a few days before. Finally, a text should be sent the day of their appointment. This frequency allows for timely cancellation and rescheduling so that another patient can book the vacant calendar spot.

Strategies to Create the Perfect Dental Patient Communication Cadence

Strategies to Create the Perfect Dental Patient Communication Cadence

The primary goal of any communication cadence you create is to increase appointment completion rates without bombarding your patients with endless messaging. While the frequency of your reminders will depend on your services and market audience, how far in advance your schedule runs is also a major factor.

Below are a few examples of ideal cadence strategies to accomplish these goals:

Cadence Example for Dental Appointments Scheduled a Week Ahead

If your dental practice typically schedules appointments a week out, the following reminder sequence can maximize engagement:

  • As soon as a patient books online or with your scheduler, send a confirmation reminder via text or email.
  • On the last business day before their appointment, send another reminder and include a reschedule option. This step ensures they are able to get care at a future date, and your office has time to get another patient booked for that time slot instead.
  • Send another reminder the morning of the appointment. This prioritizes their office visit before they get caught up in their daily routine.
  • If a teledental appointment, send another reminder a few minutes before it begins so your patient has time to log in and ensure their headphones and mic are working.

Cadence Example for Dental Appointments Scheduled a Month or More Ahead

Preventative care is essential to good oral health, but this means either scheduling wellness visits months in advance or sending scheduling requests to patients a month before. Either scenario runs the risk of your patient completely forgetting about this upcoming care, so how can you ensure they book and show up for their annual exam?

If you book the appointment months in advance:

  • An appointment confirmation is automatically sent the moment they book their appointment. This message should preferably be through email or text since voicemails and postcards are easily discarded without a trace.
  • A month before their appointment, send another reminder expressing excitement about seeing them soon for their dental care. Create a sense of urgency by emphasizing its importance and how long it's been since you've seen them last.
  • Two weeks before their visit send another reminder, even if by postcard. At this point, your patient will likely know if they need to reschedule or not.
  • The week of the appointment another message should go out stating just the essential details and including a link to your online scheduler should they need to cancel.
  • Give a 24-hour notice of their appointment. Once again, outline when, what time, which dentist they're seeing, and your office location.
  • If the patient hasn't responded to any of your previous confirmation requests, send a notice on the day of the appointment. It will be a final reminder that they have a scheduled visit and help them prioritize their day accordingly.

Improve Your Patient Communication Cadence with Adit Automated Appointment Reminders

Improve Your Patient Communication Cadence with Adit Automated Appointment Reminders

Communication technology has advanced exponentially in just the last twenty years alone. The flow of information seems to never slow thanks to smartphones, laptops, and tablets. For consumers, this can lead to burnout from being constantly bombarded with emails, text messages, and the constant dinging of notifications.

The good news is that your dental practice can create a communication cadence using automated appointment reminders that patients will find valuable and supportive of their oral healthcare. This technology also helps your practice reclaim lost productivity and reduce overhead expenses by creating a streamlined approach to scheduling that boosts appointment completion rates.

Adit provides dental offices and professionals an advanced practice management platform that incorporates a robust offering of digital tools to support every aspect of their operations. Our cloud-based software suite centralizes your communications and automates messaging so you can communicate with patients on their terms. This approach ensures you maximize engagement, boost treatment rates, and create a streamlined patient experience that supports healthy outcomes.

Some of the features we offer that will directly benefit your communication cadence includes:

  • Adit Voice
  • Appointment Reminders
  • Patient Recall
  • Call Tracking
  • Telemed
  • Pozative Reviews
  • Adit Pay
  • Internal Chat
  • 2-Way Patient Messaging
  • Practice Analytics
  • Online Scheduling
  • Patient Forms
  • And so much more!

If you would like to learn more about how Adit's practice management software can innovate your reminder process, reach out to our team to schedule a free demo. We'd love to share how our digital tools can reduce costly no-shows and cancellations to help your dental office achieve sustainable growth and outstanding patient care experiences.

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